Industrial hemp is blossoming slowly in South Dakota. After a couple years of state-government foot-dragging, 20 South Dakota farmers are growing about 2,000 acres of hemp. This inaugural crop constitutes 0.01% of South Dakota’s 19 million acres of cropland. 2,000 acres is less than a fifth of the land dedicated to pulse crops in South Dakota and probably less than the truck spillage coming off our 2.2 million acres of alfalfa, 2.7 million acres of wheat, 3.6 million acres of hay, 4.1 million acres of soybeans, and 4.5 million acres of corn. But it’s a start.
South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association exec Katie Sieverding tells WNAX that most of that hemp is being grown for grain and fiber, while 35 acres is intended to produce CBD. Sieverding says three businesses have obtained licenses to process hemp near Willow Lake (Derrick Dohmann’s Horizon Hemp Seeds), Winfred (that’s my friend and Lake County’s former Republican state’s attorney Ken Meyer!), and Sioux Falls.
Rapid City’s newest claim to fame is hempcrete. The environmentally friendly material is transforming a portion of the Aby’s Seed & Feed Complex downtown.
…”It’s the only hempcrete recording studio in the world,” [owner Jeremy] Briggs said.
…”I always had a passion for hemp because of its sustainable, environmentally friendly nature,” he said. “Hemp is easy to grow, requires less water, grows without the use of toxic chemicals, and sequesters carbon, because carbon from the air is literally built in the wall…. It’s virtually non-toxic to be around, and it sets a good example (of sustainable building practices}” [Tanya Manus, “Hemp Being Used to Help Redevelop Aby’s Complex in Downtown Rapid City,” Rapid City Journal via Cannabis PR Network, 2021.06.26].
But be careful: hempcrete is not a load-bearing material. It’s only 5% as dense as regular concrete, and it will biodegrade. You can’t use hempcrete for a foundation, but you can insulate and plaster with it. And that’s on top of making hemp rope, hemp paper, hemp fabric, hemp plywood….
With all those uses, you’d think those 2,000 acres could quickly expand to 20,000, or 200,000. Heck, maybe once we get our first hemp crop and see it sell, we’ll see hemp become that Next Big Thing Governor Noem said she was looking for two years ago.